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Botanical Name:Petunia (Ruellia carolinensis)
Other Name:Named from petun, Brazilian name for tobacco, to which Petunia is allied
Habitat: Petunia is a trumpet shaped, widely-cultivated genus of flowering plants of South American origin, native to Argentina
The origin of P. x hybrida is thought to be by hybridisation between P. axillaris (the large white or night-scented petunia) and P. integrifolia (the violet-flowered petunia). P. axillaris bears night-fragrant, buff-white blossoms with long, thin tubes and somewhat flattened openings. The species was first sent from South America to Paris in 1823. P. integrifolia has a somewhat weedy habit, spreading stems with upright tips, and small lavender to purple flowers. It was discovered in South America by the explorer James Tweedie, after whom the genus Tweedia is named, who sent specimens to the Glasgow Botanical Garden in 1831. Many open-pollinated species are also gaining popularity in the home garden. A wide range of flower colours, sizes, and plant architectures are available in both the hybrid and open-pollinated species.
Description: Petunias are one of the most popular bedding flowers. Although some species of petunia are tropical perennials, today’s hybrids are usually grown as annuals.The leaf arrangement is opposite . Each leaf is entire. They have wide trumpet shaped flowers and branching foliage that is hairy and somewhat sticky. They are prolific bloomers, although some forms require deadheading to keep them going. Most varieties will bloom throughout the summer, except in extreme heat. You can now find petunias in just about every color but black and blue and with growing habits that mound in borders or trail down containers.
This type of petunias has the largest flowers, up to 4 inches in diameter. Of all the petunias these have the widest variety of forms and colours but are the most likely to be damaged by heavy rain. There are four types of grandiflora and they are classified by their colours, namely, ‘Daddy Series’ (shades of pink and purple), ‘Merlin Blue Morn’ (blue and white), ‘Supercascade Series’ (many colours) and ‘Ultra Series’ (many colours including bi-colour).
Spreading petunias (sometimes called ground-cover are characterised by their low height (usually about six inches), but a large spread (about three to four feet). They will cover a large area provided they have adequate water and fertilisation. ‘Purple Wave’ was the first introduced cultivar of spreading petunias and grows to a height of 4 inches. ‘Tidal Wave’ is another spreading type of petunia, but is much taller (between sixteen and twenty two inches). ‘Opera Supreme’ is a cultivar with large flowers.
Milliflora are the smallest of the petunias and about 1 inch across. These are prettiest when mixed with other plants in containers, along garden beds, and edges. Milliflora are available in ‘Fantasy Series’ (red, purple, pink) and are the easiest to find. ‘Supertunia Mini Series’ (blue, pink, lilac, purple and white) are also available in the milliflora category. They tolerate harsh weather better when compared with grandifloras and multifloras
Cultivation or Growing Petunias:
Seeds of Petunias may be sown in the sunny window or hotbed in March, or in the open soil in May. The plants should always stand 9 inches apart. As the seeds are very fine, great care is necessary in sowing and in resisting the temptation to allow more plants to grow than will develop properly. Someone has said that the way to get the best single Petunias is to sow the best doubles, because the seeds of the latter do not produce all double flowers. The slowest and smallest seedlings are more apt to be doubles than those are that germinate rapidly and grow quickly. The better sorts of Petunia seed will frequently cost more than the ordinary and inferior strains, but they are worth the difference.
Petunias prefer full sunlight, but will bloom in partial shade. They will thrive in rather dry soil if this is well enriched, and also upon soil either too rich or too poor for most annuals, if the moisture conditions are right. Thus one may see that the Petunia is most adaptable.